Cover image for Eureka! : scientific breakthroughs that changed the world
Eureka! : scientific breakthroughs that changed the world
Horvitz, Leslie Alan.
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Publication Information:
New York : J. Wiley, [2002]

Physical Description:
vi, 246 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Introduction: A sudden flash of light -- A breath of immoral air: Joseph Priestley and the discovery of oxygen -- Epiphany at Clapham Road: Friedrich Kekule and the discovery of the structure of carbon compounds -- A visionary from Siberia: Dmitry Mendeleyev and the invention of the periodic table -- The birth of amazing discoveries: Isaac Newton and the theory of gravity -- The forgotten inventor: Philo Farnsworth and the development of television -- A faint shadow of its former self: Alexander Fleming and the discovery of penicillin -- A flash of light in Franklin Park: Charles Townes and the invention of the laser -- The pioneer of Pangaea: Alfred Wegener and the theory of continental drift -- Solving the mystery of mysteries: Charles Darwin and the origin of species -- Unraveling the secret of life: James Watson and Francis Crick and the discovery of the double helix -- Broken teacups and infinite coastlines: Benoit Mandelbrot and the invention of fractal geometry.
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Table of contents
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Q180.55.D57 H67 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The common language of genius: Eureka!
While the roads that lead to breakthrough scientific discovery can be as varied and complex as the human mind, the moment of insight for all scientists is remarkably similar. The word "eureka!", attributed to the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes, has come to express that universal moment of joy, wonder-and even shock-at discovering something entirely new. In this collection of twelve scientific stories, Leslie Alan Horvitz describes the drama of sudden insight as experienced by a dozen distinct personalities, detailing discoveries both well known and obscure. From Darwin, Einstein, and the team of Watson and Crick to such lesser known luminaries as fractal creator Mandelbrot and periodic table mastermind Dmitri Medellev, Eureka! perfectly illustrates Louis Pasteur's quip that chance favors the prepared mind. The book also describes how amateur scientist Joseph Priestley stumbled onto the existence of oxygen in the eighteenth century and how television pioneer Philo Farnsworth developed his idea for a TV screen while plowing his family's Idaho farm.

Author Notes

Leslie Alan Horvitz is the author, coauthor, or editor of numerous books on science and the history of science

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Horvitz's account of 12 "eureka moments" of scientific discovery seeks to inform general readers of how science tends to advance through a combination of sometimes chance insights, yet careful preparation. The brief and for the most part disconnected tales range from the familiar (Fleming and penicillin; Watson and Crick and DNA) to the relatively obscure (Kekule and carbon structures; Mandelbrot and fractal geometry). The chief virtues of the book are in the introductory observations that these "eureka moments" were recognized by scientists who were thoroughly prepared to understand their implications (recalling Edison's famous formula for genius requiring more perspiration than inspiration); that they most often occurred to scientists working on the boundaries of established disciplines and those open to "out of the box" thinking; and that great insights frequently occurred to more than one scientist at about the same time (i.e., "ideas whose time had come") such that it is a matter of luck and self-promotion as to who received credit for the discovery (e.g., Darwin versus Wallace). Professional scientists and historians will learn nothing new here, but for the intended audience of general readers, it provides an entertaining and informative read. L. W. Moore formerly, University of Kentucky

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Sudden Flash of Lightp. 1
Chapter 1 A Breath of Immoral Air: Joseph Priestley and the Discovery of Oxygenp. 11
Chapter 2 Epiphany at Clapham Road: Friedrich Kekule and the Discovery of the Structure of Carbon Compoundsp. 24
Chapter 3 A Visionary from Siberia: Dmitry Mendeleyev and the Invention of the Periodic Tablep. 41
Chapter 4 The Birth of Amazing Discoveries: Isaac Newton and the Theory of Gravityp. 57
Chapter 5 The Happiest Thought: Albert Einstein and the Theory of Gravityp. 74
Chapter 6 The Forgotten Inventor: Philo Farnsworth and the Development of Televisionp. 92
Chapter 7 A Faint Shadow of Its Former Self: Alexander Fleming and the Discovery of Penicillinp. 112
Chapter 8 A Flash of Light in Franklin Park: Charles Townes and the Invention of the Laserp. 128
Chapter 9 The Pioneer of Pangaea: Alfred Wegener and the Theory of Continental Driftp. 148
Chapter 10 Solving the Mystery of Mysteries: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Speciesp. 167
Chapter 11 Unraveling the Secret of Life: James Watson and Francis Crick and the Discovery of the Double Helixp. 188
Chapter 12 Broken Teacups and Infinite Coastlines: Benoit Mandelbrot and the Invention of Fractal Geometryp. 210
Recommended Readingp. 231
Indexp. 237